Changing Your Name with a Maryland Court

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a “legal” name?
My friends and family already call me by my preferred name. Do I need to get a “legal” name change?
Who can get a legal name change in Maryland? Is it only for trans people?
Can I get my name changed if I am under 18?
How can I get a legal name change?
Do you have to hire a lawyer to change your name?
How much does a name change cost?
I cannot afford the fees. What should I do?
Do I really have to publish my name change in a newspaper?
Where do I file my name change request?
What can I expect at the clerk’s office?
Will the court contact me during the review process?
How long will it take for the court to grant the name change?
What will I need to do once my name is changed?

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

What is a “legal” name?

When you were born, the name given to you on your birth certificate was your “legal” name. It is likely that this name continues to be used on all official documents, such as Social Security, court records, and your state-issued ID, learner’s permit, or driver’s license.

My friends and family already call me by my preferred name. Do I need to get a “legal” name change?

This is your choice. Some people are satisfied with using their preferred name with friends and family. Some schools or employers will also agree to use your preferred name on school records or paystubs.
However, without a legal name change, you may not be able to have your preferred name on your State-issued ID or driver’s license, your passport, or other official documents .

Who can get a legal name change in Maryland? Is it only for trans people?

Any Maryland resident of any age can get a legal name change. You do not need to have been born in Maryland to get a name change, but you need to have lived in Maryland for at least one year.

You can change your name for any reason except for “fraudulent purposes.” This means you cannot change your name so that you can try to pretend to be someone else, like a celebrity, or to avoid paying back a loan.

Can I get my name changed if I am under 18?

Yes. The process for getting a minor’s (under 18) name changed is basically the same for an adult. However, the form is a little different, because minors cannot file petitions with the court. A parent or legal guardian has to file the petition for you. If you have a second parent or legal guardian, he or she also has to give written consent to the name change .

How can I get a legal name change?

Maryland Circuit Courts will issue “name change decrees,” or an official document stating that your legal name has been changed. You can ask the court to change your name by filling out a form (also called a “petition”). If you are a minor (under 18) your parents will have to fill out forms as well. You then submit these forms to the Circuit Court in your county, along with a fee (or a fee waiver.) There will not be a trial.

The judge assigned to your court will then send you a notice that you have to place an ad in the classified section of a local newspaper stating that you are changing your name. Depending on the county, the newspaper might notify the judge that the ad has been placed, or you may have to notify the judge yourself. The judge will wait 30 days after the ad has been placed to see if anyone objects to your name change. If no one does, then the judge will review your petition and order that your name be legally changed. You will get an official document (a name change decree) in the mail .

DIY

For adults (over 18 years old) — Maryland Court instructions for name change

For adults (over 18 years old) — Example of the name change petition

For minors (under 18 years old) — Maryland Court instructions for name change 

For minors (under 18 yaers old) — Example of the name change petition 

Do you have to hire a lawyer to change your name?

No. You can file the petition yourself using the information provided by the court (see above.) However, if you find the process or the forms confusing, you can contact FreeState Legal Project for additional assistance.

How much does a name change cost?

It costs $155 to submit your petition to the court. The cost of the classified ad you place in your local newspaper will vary depending on where you live. In Baltimore City, for instance, it costs $84.

I cannot afford the fees. What should I do?

People who cannot afford the fees can ask the court for a “waiver,” which means you do not have to pay them. If you would like information about this, contact FreeState Legal Project for more information.

Do I really have to publish my name change in a newspaper?

Sometimes a judge will agree to skip the requirement that you put an ad in the newspaper. Contact FreeState Legal Project for more information.

Where do I file my name change request?

Name changes should be filed (turned in) at the clerk’s office at the Circuit Court in the county where you live. Click here for a list of Circuit Courts and their addresses.

You can file the petition by taking it to the court yourself, or you can mail it. If you are paying the court fees, you should pay them at the same time you turn in or mail your petition. Some courts have rules about what types of payment they will accept. We recommend you contact the Circuit Court in your county about how to make your payment.

What can I expect at the clerk’s office?

  • If you plan to deliver your petition in person, bring two copies of your petition to the courthouse. You will file the name change at the clerk’s office in the Circuit Court. Some courts may direct you to a specific office within the court, such as the Civil Division or the Family Division office. You will give your payment and one copy of the petition to the clerk. Ask them to stamp the second copy and give it back to you for your records.
  • If you are mailing the petition to the court, send your payment and two copies as well as a self-addressed stamped envelope. Include a note requesting that the clerk mail you a stamped copy. Make sure to tell them what address to mail the copy to.

Clerks should treat all visitors with respect, regardless of what type of matter they are filing. If you feel that you were not treated with respect by court staff when trying to file a name change, contact FreeState Legal Project for more information.

Will the court contact me during the review process?

The court may send your additional documents BEFORE granting the name change. For instance, if you request the court to waive court costs or the newspaper publication, the court will mail you a notice of its decision about these requests. If you are required to publish the name change, you will want to watch your mail for information from the court or the newspaper about publication.
Additionally, judges may occasionally ask for additional information from you when considering the petition. It is very important that you respond immediately to these requests, since they may be time-sensitive requests.

If you receive a document from the court that you find confusing, contact FreeState Legal Project for assistance.

How long will it take for the court to grant the name change?

It will likely take several months from beginning to end. It depends on how busy the court is where you live.

What will I need to do once my name is changed?

When the court approves your name change, you will receive several certified copies of your name change decree. You will need to update your name on your:

  • Social Security Card
  • MVA ID or Driver’s License
  • Birth Certificate
  • Passport
  • School records, bank records, etc.

See section on “Changing Your Identity Documents”

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